• Immigration Reforms Impose New Obligations and Restrictions on Employers and Foreign Workers
  • January 30, 2014
  • Law Firm: Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen Loewy LLP - New York Office
  • Effective January 10, 2014, employers and foreign workers are subject to several new immigration obligations and restrictions, including laws that expand the grounds for refusing entry and suspending immigration status, new tax registration procedures for work permit holders, new restrictions for retail employers, and changes to required health screenings for visa-exempt foreign nationals.

    The Russian government also has announced a new quota exempt work authorization program for representative offices of companies based in WTO member states, to be introduced later this year.

    Impact of Administrative Violations on Admission and Immigration Status

    Foreign nationals can now be refused entry to Russia or be prohibited from renewing a current visa from within Russia if they commit two or more administrative violations within a three-year period. Administrative violations include speeding tickets, automotive moving violations, failing to timely register one’s residential address, and similar infractions that are typically punished by an administrative fine. The timely payment of any imposed fines will not negate the potential immigration consequences of the infractions.

    The Federal Migration Service (FMS) and Russian police and border control agencies have linked their databases in order to identify violators.

    New Tax Registration Procedure for All Work Permit Holders

    As of January 10, all foreign nationals working in Russia must be registered with tax authorities. Employers of Highly Qualified Specialist (HQS) work permits are no longer required to register these foreign workers with Russian tax authorities. The FMS will now automatically forward a foreign worker’s information to tax authorities shortly after accepting his or her permit application. Confirmation of tax registration will be sent directly back to the FMS.

    Previously, employers were required to complete tax registration formalities on behalf of HQS permit holders and to confirm the registration to the FMS within 30 days of collecting the approved HQS permit.

    New Restrictions for Retail Employers

    Employers in the retail industry will be permitted to sponsor foreign nationals for HQS or standard work permits in the following occupations only:

    1. Chief stock manager
    2. Department manager
    3. Deputy director for commercial matters
    4. Deputy HR director
    5. Director (general director or manager) of a company
    6. Financial director (deputy)
    7. Head of a department
    8. Head of a laboratory
    9. Manager
    10. Principal officer
    11. Trade group manager
    12. Warehouse manager

    The new restrictions are expected to take effect in the near future, though the FMS has not yet set an exact date.

    Health Screenings for Visa-Exempt Foreign Nationals

    Visa-exempt foreign nationals seeking to work in Russia are now required to submit medical screening certificates with their work permit applications. Previously, visa-exempt nationals were permitted to submit screening certificates within 30 days of collecting their approved work permits.

    Quota Exempt Work Permit Program for Certain Representative Offices

    Later this year, Russia plans to introduce a streamlined work permit program for foreign commercial entities registered in a WTO member state. Qualifying entities will be eligible to sponsor up to five key personnel to work at a representative office, branch office, or subsidiary in Russia for up to three years. Banking entities will be eligible to sponsor up to two key employees.

    Foreign nationals sponsored under the program will be exempt from Russia’s work permit quota and employment permit regimes. To be eligible, sponsored workers must have worked abroad for the parent entity for at least one year, seek to work in one of a list of designated occupations, and meet minimum salary and health insurance requirements. Applications for permits under the new program are expected to be adjudicated within 30 days of submission.

    The FMS has not announced when the new program will become available. Additional program details are expected before it launches.

    The new program will be of significant benefit to representative offices of qualified foreign entities, which are currently prohibited from using the quota exempt HQS work permit program.

    What These Changes Mean for Employers and Foreign Nationals

    Foreign nationals should be mindful that relatively minor administrative violations, such as traffic tickets, can have significant immigration consequences, and they should notify their immigration service provider of any administrative infraction.